TBEX 2012 review and my 1st Blogiversary! Hard work paying off

Before I start my TBEX 2012 review, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY LatinAbroad! It was June 18, 2011 when Jodi from Legal Nomads helped me come up with the name, I bought this domain, and published my first post.

If you only wish to read my TBEX 2012 review, please scroll down the page until you see the appropriate heading

While my first write ups are not stellar, I’ve always kept my voice, written from the heart, and shared my love for travel and how it transformed my life. After attending TBEX 2012 though, I’m fully loaded: this second year travel blogging will be better than ever! I’ll focus much more on defining my brand, quality, travel advice articles, and more inspirational/personal posts.

My goals are set: branding, further engage my audience, win the hearts of new visitors, and inspire all of you to overcome your fears and follow your dreams through my travels and personal experiences. Furthermore, I’ll work even harder on my dream of becoming a full-time digital nomad! And after the great connections (and even contracts!) made in Keystone, I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s to the next seven decades! 😉

2011-2012 at a glance

Most clicks: Puerto Rico: Beach Thursday photo essay

Most commented: Travel Bucket List Wednesdays are now #TravelBL!

Most personal: Travel and a broken heart: How they changed my life forever

Most popular photo essay: Traveling through Spanish food (after PR essay)

Most popular travel series: Cultural Tidbits Monday (superstitions and food)

Best travel advice: How to dress in Egypt or any conservative country (photos)

And that’s a wrap! Did your favorite blog post make the cut? Whether your answer is a yes or a no, please tell me on a comment below! I would love to hear what you enjoy, beyond what Google Analytics tells me 😉

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone village view

At TBEX: A local brew and me with Keystone on the background

TBEX 2012 review: What was done, what could have been done

With my first blogiversary came my first TBEX (June 15th – 17th). After much preparation, I arrived to Keystone, CO last Friday with great expectations and willingness to learn. Overall, I was very satisfied: I enjoyed most events and the schedule of the conference. However, certain sessions left much to be desired! Thus, I give the whole weekend a B+/A-. I hope this TBEX 2012 review helps speakers and organizers alike make the 2013 gathering even better.

Welcome Party: A

We were welcomed with a party at 11,444 feet: “Taste of Vail Resorts.” Unfortunately, my flight and shuttle came in all too late, and just 10 minutes upon arrival I had to head down. I didn’t miss the champagne and cookies though–nice touch! Oh yeah, it was given to us when switching cable cars on our way to the summit.

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone gondola champagne

Champagne and a view: Couldn’t ask for a better ride to a welcome party! (Photo: Jennifer Huber)

TBEX 2012 review, welcome party food

Even more food (Photo: Dave Cynkin, Flickr)

TBEX 2012 review, Outpost Gondola

Cookies by the gondolas! (Photo by @earthXplorer, Twitter)

TBEX 2012 review, welcome party dinner

“Smoked Gouda Cheese with Crab Meat Fondu” (Jennifer Huber, Flickr)

TBEX 2012 review, welcome party dessert

Yep, those are PASTRIES! (Photo by @KLadyga, Twitter)

After interviewing some attendees and seeing all their photos, I can confidently give this event an A. Chefs were imaginative, the selection of food was plentiful, and everyone left with happy tummies.

Registration: A / Sessions & keynotes: B

Registration was speedy and gets an A — no need for a different section, as it is a straight-forward process. The goodie bag was awesome and we even got a free Scottevest, which I’ll be reviewing on a different post.

The sessions, however, fell somewhat short. While the Opening Keynote and The Branding of You were excellent, the ones about How to build a business with your blog and SEOmoz’s SEO without Selling your Soul were pretty elementary. In fact, I learned more about blogging from the Q & A section and I was already familiar with all the SEO techniques presented by Rand.

TBEX 2012 review, sessions quote

One of my favorite quotes during the particularly-inspirational Open Keynote

I understand that the speakers wanted to cater to newbies, but that’s what other sessions were for. I felt like there was some repetition and lack of substance. For instance, I thought the SEO for Beginners session was going to be the “inspirational” one, getting you pumped about the subject while covering the basics. But heck, the SEO Without Selling Your Soul session didn’t even talk about meta keywords or SEO plugins available! And even that is 101 material.

Maybe my expectations were too high: I wanted to learn more about SEO, beyond the plugins, focus keywords, and meta descriptions. Maybe I’m more “advanced” in SEO than I thought, eh?

Expedia Shindig: B

The Expedia Shindighad a lot of potential — but fell short in the end. I didn’t even know they were going to run giveaways! And lots of people that were drinking and missed the competitions on stage altogether will probably agree now.

TBEX 2012 review, Expedia Shindig

Me at the Expedia Shindig

While surprises are nice, Expedia should have done a better job at announcing some of the contests and giveaways beforehand. A 4-day stay at the St. Regis in Vieques, Puerto Rico for Best Dressed? I’m sure more people would have dressed appropriately! In fact, I went forward for that contest and only heard the announcer’s call 2 minutes beforehand.

Also, I heard the host try to giveaway other prizes throughout the night. Yet, because I didn’t know much about them, I preferred to mingle with travel bloggers by the beer tent in the back instead.

That being said: The Stables = a great venue for the themed Shindig, service was nice, food was good (oh dear, the brisket!) and drinks were plentiful (both beers and cocktails). All comped. #ExpediaTBEX. I like.

Networking opportunities: B

The TBEX Presdo Match was a godsend. Unfortunately, some bloggers and PR reps got on the wagon a little too late. Those that updated their profile and began using the tool right when it launched, however, truly reaped the benefits.

As I said on my TBEX first timer pre-conference post, I scheduled 90% of my connections via the Presdo Match tool. It was easy to use, most users with full profiles were very responsive, and I knew what to expect and what to discuss during my appointments once at Keystone.

TBEX 2012 review, networking

Black curly hair, golden streaks? That’s me in action! (Photo: @revealedrome, Twitter)

The only reason why I’m giving networking a B is because the Speed Dating event was disorganized. We were told that we would receive emails about where we were going to meet for our appointments. Instead, we only knew this event would take place on the Expo floor, a huge space flooded with people. Once there, there was only one person directing every blogger to where each rep was. I had to stay in line and wait until this one nice lady found all my reps on the big list. I was late to my first appointment because I had to wait in line for this. No bueno.

Still, the Presdo Match and networking events (once the reps could finally be located) were excellent. Thus, I can’t give them a B-. I was too happy with the connections and willingness of the PR reps to truly work with bloggers.

Location: A+

Beautiful. Unbelievably beautiful. Honestly, I was skeptical at first: Why such a “remote” location, instead of having a big travel conference such as TBEX in a big city? Once there, I got it. Keystone was the perfect setting: Quiet, yet stunning surroundings that allowed me to relax and fully recharge in-between sessions.

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone lake view

Gorgeous Keystone lake view

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone Colorado

Road to Keystone, Colorado

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone road

Road from Keystone-Denver

Moreover, if you felt adventurous, there were so many outdoor activities to partake in. I was sad I had to leave so early–I was too busy during the conference and couldn’t squeeze in any special sightseeing. Still, the wonderful views of Keystone are stuck in my mind and I’m sure coming back for more! Stay tuned as tomorrow’s Travel Tuesday post will be all about Keystone, Colorado! 😉

The true highlight…?

Yes, I did get two translation contracts, lots of “maybes,” and made incredible professional contacts. I even cried during an interview with John from Travelllll, where I talked about my experiences at TBEX and how happy I was about all my hard work finally starting to pay off. However, the fact that I exceeded my own goals and expectations at TBEX 2012 was not necessarily my favorite aspect of the event. In fact, meeting my role models and connecting with some of my favorite travel blogging tweeps IRL was the true highlight of this weekend getaway.

After each official event, we would usually head to the Kickapoo Tavern to mingle. I was surprised at how outgoing almost everyone seemed to be and what a blast we had every single night. Also, as far as I know, no drama ensued either. I can’t wait to show you more photos on my next post!

TBEX 2012 review, meeting Legal Nomads

Me (right) meeting my role model and first travel blogger I followed, since 2008: Jodi from Legal Nomads! I actually shed a tear when we hugged…felt so silly!

TBEX 2012 review, meet ups

Me (bottom) surrounded by some big names! Guess who? 😉

TBEX 2012 review, Runaway Juno

Me (left) and @RunawayJuno (right) at the Expedia Shindig

Did you go? Write or post a link to your TBEX 2012 review below!

TBEX first timer: Am I doing it right? What is it even like?!

I’m going to be a TBEX first timer this year. And it’s very fitting that this travel conference almost lands on my travel blogging first-year anniversary (June 18th)! While I’m prepping according to the lessons learned as a NY Times travel show first timer, I can’t help but be nervous…! However, even if you have been to other big travel conferences, but are a TBEX first timer like me, let me tell you something right away:

TBEX is a completely different ballgame.

The focus of this travel conference is us, travel bloggers–not tourism organizations and PR professionals. Still, I can’t help but wonder: What will it be like? Am I even prepping correctly!? What should I bring, besides my business cards, motivation, and excitement!?

What I’m doing: It’s PREP time!

TBEX is in T -4 days. However, for the past two months or so, I’ve been requesting meetings and sending pitches to relevant attendees.

TBEX first timer, my profile

Loving that TBEX Presdo Match! Here

I might be a TBEX first timer, but this is my second travel conference. So, as I advised NY Times Travel Show first timers, I’m making sure I take a good look at the full sponsors’ and attendees’ list prior to arrival. While I’ve gotten too many “No” ‘s for meetings and every single pitch of mine has been turned down thus far, I’m not giving up!  I just got some leads for meeting *crossing fingers* Still, I must admit…

I’m losing a bit of motivation… 🙁

I’ve been wondering: What have I been doing wrong!? I was expecting a better turnout, better responses! Do you have any advice when it comes to pre-conference pitches!?

I do have a great service to offer: Translation and localization of travel websites. I’ve been a translator / translation manager for two years now, saving my company up to $10,000 and counting. Also, I am able to cover a press trip in two languages (English and Spanish), therefore greatly expanding the reach of whichever organization takes me on such a project. in fact, I also happen to be the marketing manager at my current company, directing campaigns and initiatives in those two languages.

Yet, my resume doesn’t seem to be impressing anybody.

I keep getting no’s no’s no’s. While I understand this is part of life, some pointers would be greatly appreciated! I’m getting a little frustrated… :/

Packing for high-altitude

While I lived in Ifrane, Morocco (Atlas Mountains) for a full semester, I don’t really have experience with high-altitude weather. Thus, I was surprised to see on the TBEX A Taste of Vail Resorts Welcome Party invitation that the temperature could drop to the 20s (F)!

Being from the Caribbean, I was just dazed and confused as to how summer temperatures could be this low 😛 but thanks to Kara Williams, now I have an idea of what to wear:

TBEX first timer, packing

Advice for packing for Keystone, TBEX

Layering. Duh. Sometimes I wonder about my traveler skills… LOL. But then again, packing is still a challenge for many of us girls 😉 I’m hoping to have my carry-on ready to go by Wednesday (even though I don’t fly out until Friday afternoon).

Selecting the appropriate sessions to attend

This is probably the most daunting task for any TBEX first timer: Selecting which sessions to attend. There are so many great speakers and topics–all which I would love to hear about. But a travel blog is a business after all, so I had to choose the sessions that would help my travel websites the most in the short term, as I just started a year ago. So far, this is what my schedule looks like:

TBEX first timer sessions

My scheduled sessions this year–might change before Friday!

Parties parties… and even more parties?!

Looking at the finalized TBEX schedule got me all excited–it won’t be all just work! I remember the NY Times Travel Show feeling like exhausting work the whole way through. While there were some fun performances in-between, there were no special events or parties planned for travel bloggers (except for the Expedia happy hour–now that was awesome!).

Now TBEX: Completely different story! Just take a look at this:

TBEX first timer, pre-conference events schedule

TBEX pre-conference events

TBEX first timer, welcome party invitation

TBEX 2012 welcome party: A Taste of Vail. Hope I make it from my flight!

TBEX first timer, Expedia Shindig

Expedia Shindig flyer — this will be my first time in

Fun fun! I’ll be attending the Taste of Vail welcome party & the Expedia Shindig

Unfortunately, I was unable to take enough time off from my full-time translation manager position, so I won’t be able to attend many pre-conference events. Another reason why I can’t wait to become a full-time Nomadic Translator! Btw, if you wish to help me on this endeavor by partnering with me (so I can translate and localize all your travel websites and magazines), just give me a shout! 😉

All in all, I’m pretty excited about TBEX and it has already surpassed my expectations since I reluctantly signed up early this year (thanks, Mr Tieso! ;))

You a TBEX first timer like me this year? How are you prepping?

Read more about the conference: My TBEX review

NY Times Travel Show first timer: Overview & tips

Overly exhausted, but alive! NY Times Travel Show first timer here, just returned from NYC late Sunday night. For being my very first travel conference, I feel it was a resounding success! The sessions, the networking, and the organization of the event truly impressed me. Now I can give you first timers a little overview and guide in order for you to make the most out of the next NY Times Travel Show or any other big conference of its kind.

NY Times Travel Show first timer, 2012

didn’t forget my press pass–but forgot my notepad!

Preparation and what to bring

One thing I regret is being fully prepared. If it wasn’t for Expedia’s Coast to Coast event and the little goodie bag they gave us travel bloggers, I wouldn’t have had a notepad and working pen! Seems simple, but make sure you pack more than one pen (mine ran out of ink) and a sturdy notebook with you. Some presenters can run out of business cards (or have more to say than their card), so being able to dot down details is important. Also, make sure you have a tote bag, where you can place bigger brochures or even press trip applications.

Moreover, make sure you take a look at the full exhibitor’s list prior to arrival. If you apply for and are granted a press pass, this list is typically emailed to you a few days in advance. Write down which boards/companies you would love to speak to and create a plan of action. If possible, schedule it by the day. Being this organized means you can simply go down your list and get more done faster.

NY Times Travel Show first timer, Expedia event

I’m sure my big hair won’t be forgotten…! Here, with travel bloggers @CaptainandClark @MidlifeRoadTrip @live_for_travel at #ExpediaC2C event

On the show: Network confidently and stand out

As a NY Times Travel Show first timer, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and–let’s be honest here–feel small. My travel blogs have been live for a little over 6 months only, so I do not have the traffic and clout that many others have. Thus, I had to make sure that my pitch whilst networking at the show was one that stood out for its uniqueness.

While I’m a relatively-new travel blogger, I also work as a bilingual freelance travel writer and translator. Therefore, what I had to offer to all those tourism boards was coverage of a press trip in both English and Spanish. No press trips? I offered to help them reach the Spanish-speaking market by developing their company blog in Spanish and helping to translate/localize their entire website. I pitched this very confidently, and sure got lots of positive feedback from exhibitors. In fact, more than twice I was told “I can tell that you are hard-working and confident. I’m sure you’ll go very far in your career and in life–keep it up and keep in touch!” You have no idea how great that felt! So, make sure you find a unique niche that can be connected to travel blogging. This way, you will stand out from the pack.

NY Times Travel Show first timer, Samantha Brown presenting

Samantha Brown! Click for the short video

Post-show: Follow-up

This is as important as networking confidently is. As a NY Times Travel Show first timer (or veteran!), you must touch base with everyone you spoke to or else your pitch will be forgotten. I recommend you gather all the business cards/notes from the travel show and organize all the data on an Excel spreadsheet (with a notes section!). After you transfer all the business cards to that spreadsheet, go down the list to touch base within a week of the conference. Dot down when you sent every email and follow-up accordingly. This is the only way you’ll be successful at developing an important partnership and/or making a press trip happen.

NY Times Travel Show first timer, photos

Top: Lovely woman travel session (with legendary @JourneyWoman Evelyn!). Bottom: The Asia floor with lovely ladies from Sri Lanka (left) and Thai display (right)

Final thoughts of a NY Times Travel Show first timer

First off, I must emphasize how organized it was. It was a massive pavilion, but every section was well-marked and relatively easy to find. All sessions were helpful and organized as well, with schedules given ahead of time, which allowed for prioritizing. Next time I go, I’ll make sure I prepare better in order to speak to more people in less time. The exhibitors I spoke to were very helpful and I had the opportunity to meet very important executives in the industry, pitching directly to them without the gatekeepers (yay!). Some big names include the VP/GM of Expedia and the CEO of EscapeFromTheCity — amazing, I know!

NY Times Travel Show first timer bloggers

Successful event indeed! From left: Julia @EpicAdventurer_, me @latinAbroad, Gina @live_for_travel. Photo courtesy of Gina

NY Times Travel Show first timer or veteran w/ additional advice? Comment below!